Glasgow Warriors made it back-to-back victories over South African opponents, as Jamie Bhatti’s early score proved the difference in a 13-9 win over the Emirates Lions at Scotstoun.
Ross Thompson chipped in with eight points from the boot, with the Glasgow defence to the forefront of a valuable home triumph.
For the second week in succession, the Warriors could scarcely have made a better start. After a high shot on Cole Forbes was penalised by Ross Thompson kicking to the corner, the pack set about their business. On his 50th appearance for the club, it was eventually Bhatti who made the crucial final yard, touching down under the posts for the opening score of the match. Thompson converted, and it was a seven-point lead for the hosts after just two minutes.
Whilst EW Viljoen cut the deficit to four just a couple of minutes later after Glasgow were penalised for offside, the early attacking impetus was all coming from the home side. Whilst the Scotstoun drizzle was making handling tricky, the Warriors were looking to impose their style on proceedings, stretching the play in midfield. The back-three in particular were causing mayhem for the Lions defence, with one sidestep from Rufus McLean earning a roar from the Warrior Nation. With the Lions scrambling to get back in shape, an infringement at the breakdown allowed Thompson to kick a penalty from the 22 to give Glasgow a 10-3 lead after 15 minutes.
Yet the Lions were willing to match the home side’s attacking ambition, with Viljoen marshalling his back-line well in midfield. Good kick pressure from Stean Pienaar forced Glasgow to seal off at a ruck, with Viljoen punishing the hosts by nailing a penalty from 35 metres on the angle to narrow the gap to four once more.
Defences were increasingly dominant as the first-half wore on, with neither side willing to budge in the face of their opponents. Richie Gray showed all of his experience to track back fully 40 metres to cut down a break from Burger Odendaal, whilst Rory Darge and Jack Dempsey were making themselves known to the visitors.
A half-break from McLean and Jamie Dobie was the closest either side came to adding to their tallies as the first half wound to a close, with a Forbes chip and chase snuffed out by Rabz Maxwane just before the interval. Viljoen took just two minutes of the second half to trouble the scorers, however, as a long-range penalty cut the deficit to a single point.
The visitors now had their tails up, as they searched for the lead inside the Glasgow 22. The home side were willing to front up as the rain continued to fall, though, with a double hit from Bean and Sione Tuipulotu forcing a turnover before Murphy Walker earned a penalty at the resulting scrum with almost his first involvement from the bench.
Buoyed by their defensive efforts, the Warriors re-established their foothold in the match. A half-break from Tuipulotu almost sent Kyle Steyn away down the wing, whilst Nick Grigg was just unable to reel in a bouncing ball on the damp Scotstoun surface.
An increasingly-cagey affair saw a pivotal momentum shift as the game entered the closing stages. After Viljoen drilled a kick at goal wide of the uprights from inside his own half, the Lions fumbled the resulting restart inside their own 22 to give Glasgow the attacking scrum. With the Lions then jumping offside in defence, Thompson was ice-cool from the tee to take the score to 13-9 with nine minutes to play.
From there, it was down to the Glasgow defence once more. To a man, the home side fronted up; a colossal double hit from Matt Fagerson and Darge put the Lions on the back foot, before Brad Thyer and Steyn combined to force a knock on roared to the rafters by the Warrior Nation.
They may have come in very different fashions, but the Warriors won’t mind – the result sees Danny Wilson’s men move to the top of the Scottish-Italian Shield for the time being, as conference rivals Zebre await in Parma next weekend.
Kick-off 5:30 pm